Unlike other Republican lawmakers, Arizona Senator John McCain is publicly speaking out concernings Russia’s actions in Ukraine. Earlier this week, Russian-backed rebels attacked Ukraine civilians. in response, McCain suggested the U.S. should send lethal military aid to the Ukrainian army.
A letter McCain sent to Trump on Thursday said:
“In the first of what will be many tests for your new administration, Russia and its proxy forces launched attacks against Ukrainian forces this week, killing at least seven Ukrainian soldiers and wounding dozens more,”
“That this surge of attacks began the day after he talked with you by phone is a clear indication that Vladimir Putin is moving quickly to test you as commander-in-chief. America’s response will have lasting consequences.”
McCain said, “Vladimir Putin’s violent campaign to destabilize and dismember the sovereign nation of Ukraine will not stop unless and until he meets a strong and determined response.”
“Ukrainians are not asking Americans to do their fighting,” McCain added. “Nearly 10,000 Ukrainians have died to protect their homeland and many more are serving and have sacrificed for the cause of a free and united Ukraine. But America does have a proud history of helping free people to defend themselves.”
Ukraine Assault Follows Putin Trump Call
On Saturday Presidents Trump and Putin spoke by phone. The Kremlin issued a statement which recapped the call. Russia indicated Trump and Putin discussed “the main aspects of the Ukrainian crisis.” However, a similar White House statement failed to mention Ukraine.
On Sunday, violence flared in the Avdiivka-Yasynuvata area. Many have described this as the worst escalation since the start of the conflict in eastern Ukraine, in 2014. The RussianForeign Ministry has denied backing the separatists. Consistent with that position, they have blamed Ukrainian troops for the latest violence. Western officials contradict Russian claims.
Obama sent NonLethal Aid
Previously, Democratic President Barack Obama provided non-lethal aid to Ukraine. That was in the form of training, surveillance drones, communications equipment,counter-artillery radars, anti-tank systems, night vision tools, and first-aid kits. The objective was to lend military assistance that increased the effectiveness of sanctions and engage in diplomacy aimed at ending the conflict in Ukraine.
Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, during his confirmation hearing, supported lethal defensive aid to Ukraine. overall, the Trump administration has been far less enthusiastic. During the GOP convention, Team Trump worked to minimize language in the Party platform concerning military aid to Ukraine.
According to the Kremlin report, Trump and Putin agreed to “build up partner cooperation.” Trump has consistently indicated a desire to improve relations with the Kremlin. It is unclear how Trump will respond to congressional calls to arm the Ukrainians against Russia. However, most experts agree that normalization of U.S.-Russian relations would be at the expense of Crimea and eastern Ukraine.
McCain, Chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee, also repeated his insistence that Trump maintain sanctions on Russia and impose new ones to punish Russia for interference in the U.S. election.